Friends Through the Pages

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I have recently made a new friend. Her name is Alice Ozma, and she doesn’t know that we are friends yet.

You see, I “met” Alice while reading her memoir “The Reading Promise,” and although she couldn’t tell me from Adam, we are soul sisters for sure.

Alice wrote a whole book about the wonder of having her father, Jim Brozina, read aloud to her. What better way is there to speak straight to the heart of a woman who has read all 4,178 pages of the Harry Potter series – out loud – twice, with the third go round in progress, than to tell of the lasting bond that such shared time creates? I can tell you, I was hooked on her story before I even cracked the spine on the book.

Luckily for us, Alice has more going for her than just a loving father and an impressive library of completed books. She is also a skilled storyteller, who takes us along as she recounts her experiences being raised by a single father.

She tells us not only of books read and stories shared, but also of a father who, while not perfect, was fiercely devoted to his daughters and raising them to the best of his capabilities, often with meager resources. She brings us into this beautiful relationship, and makes us wish we were a part of it, too.

When Alice was 9 years old and in third grade, she and her father made a promise to read aloud together for 100 consecutive nights. “The Streak” as it would come to be known, passed those first hundred nights, and stretched on for the next nine years, without missing a night, until an 18-year-old Alice left home to attend college. For those of us who are mathematically challenged, that is a 3,218-night reading marathon … a promise kept and then some!

The titles they shared range from standard school-age fare such as Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, to biographies of presidents, Agatha Christie mysteries, poems by Poe, and just about everything in between. Ozma includes a list of many of the volumes they shared at the back of the book, and in addition to being impressive in length; it is a fantastic suggested reading guide for parents and children alike.

One of the first passages to grab me came in the introduction, written by Ozma’s father, Jim. He said, “I have discovered very little in life that I am adept at doing. I cannot fix your car, repair your roof, or even drive a nail straight. However, I have given everything I have to being a father, and I happily stand back to see the results.”

What a universal emotion. All any parent want is to be able to look back at the end of the day and say that, in spite of our missteps, we gave it our all and are proud of the results. For Jim and Alice, the pathway down that road was marked with pages of books shared together. Amazing memories made, for only the cost of free time, in the innumerable worlds of literature.

We can all take a lesson from this example. What will last forever in our children’s hearts isn’t necessarily the expensive vacations, or costly toys, but the quiet moments of our own we chose to give them.

Ozma concludes her memoir by providing us with a fill-in-your-own-name reading promise. It is an oath, that can be made with another person, or simply with one’s self.

“I promise to visit fictional worlds and gain new perspectives…I promise to laugh out loud (especially in public) when the chapter amuses me, and to sob uncontrollably on my bed for hours at a time when my favorite character dies. I promise to look up words when I don’t know them, and cities when I can’t locate them, and people when I can’t remember them. I promise to lose track of time …”

I promise.

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